Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sword Thief, Goony Bird, Ghost of Spirit Bear

Spring Break is coming to an end. I didn't accomplish as much as I wanted. My daughter and son-in-law have been with us a couple of weeks along with their 3 year old daughter Haylee. She calls me girlfriend or grandma girlfriend. We have colored, drawn pictures, played games and read books. I have made her Barbie outfits and introduced her to my fabric stash. The problem with that was that she started picking out her favorites and making her own stash from mine. I also caught the cold that they brought with them and spent the last four days of break in bed. I did get to read a little bit.

I finished the third book in the 39 clues series The Sword Thief I absolutely love these books. This is a series that I will read all over again from the first book to the last when the whole series has been written. I enjoy reading them as they come out. The down side to this is that I spend two hours reading the book then must wait months before the next one comes out. So once I have them all I will take a weekend and read them all through again. If you are not familiar with the series let me help you out. Amy and Dan Cahill have lost their grandmother Grace Cahill. They were named in her will. They were given an opportunity to take $1,000,000 or search the world over for 39 clues that will lead them to the Cahill source of power. The different branches of the family are searching and will use what ever crooked or evil means they can to eliminate each other. My middle school students love these books.

I had time to read and review for the 'Picnic Basket', Lois Lowry's book Gooney Bird is So Absurd. I happen to love Lois Lowry's books. This was the first Gooney Bird book I had ever read. I will definately read the others. Gooney Bird is a student who is definately different. She wears a pair of frilly underwear on her head with her pig tails sticking out of the leg holes. These keep her brain warm when it is writing time. Her class is learning all about poetry from their teacher Mrs. Pidgeon. Mrs. Pidgeon's mother has been their class mother and her poetry is shared with the class as they learn to write Haiku's and couplets. When their teacher's mother dies they take what they have learned about poetry and write a poem for their teacher. I was impressed with this story because it teaches kids about different kinds of poetry and in the story they create examples for the reader. The principal visits the class and he attempts poetry showing the reader that even administration takes learning seriously.

The next book I read was Ghost of Spirt Bear the sequel to Touching Spirit Bear . Let me tell you a little about Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen. Cole Matthews is a violent kid that has bullied people to the point of almost killing Peter Driscal. On his way to jail an alternative is offered to him. He is to be shipped to a remote Alaskan Island where he will learn to deal with his anger. After being dropped off he burns his supplies and plans on leaving the island. He is attacked and mauled by a 'spirit bear'. He survives until they come to check on him. He is taken to the hospital. When he recuperates he asks to go back to the island. He is there for a while dealing with his anger when Garvey, his parole officer and mentor comes to check on him and informs him that Peter has tried unsuccessfully several times to kill himself due to the disabilities received from Cole's beating. Peter is sent to the island where he and Cole work out their issues and learn to deal with what the world has dealt them.

In the sequel Ghost of Spirit Bear, Cole and Peter are back in their old environment. Cole must learn to deal with the anger that lies within him waiting to surface, while being the victim of bullies. Peter must learn to survive other bullies. The teachers and administrators seem to ignore what is going on in the school until a brutal beating and a student's death make them face the problems in their school. Cole and Peter set out to change their environment while creating changes in their own lives.

Both of these are excellent reads. I have first hand experience seeing the first book change lives in school. One of my students was given this book to read while on a ten day suspension. He had to keep a reflection journal of what was going through his mind as he read the book. When he turned the book and journal in to me he had bared his soul to the journal. He asked if he could read the book again to get more tips on how to handle the situations in his life. I gave him the book to keep. This was a young man headed for jail. He made the decision to turn his life around based on the book. What an awesome influence a book can have.

I am also currently reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is a story of anorexia. I enjoy reading her books because she writes about those edgy subjects that others are afraid to write about. I should finish it tomorrow. There are three other books I am presently reading but I will wait until I finish them to write about them.

For my profession:

I read a book called "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller that I plan on passing along to the administration at my school. I also want to purchase a copy to send to our school superintendent. I believe in the message the author has for teaching reading instead of teaching isolated skills to remedial student thus turning them off to reading. I would recommend this book and her blog to all teachers and parents who what to make sure their kids learn to read what they want to read.

I hope to finish the book Readicide by Kelly Gallagher that explains how schools are killing reading by teaching students to take tests and not how to become critical thinkers. I bought it to go hand in had with The Book Whisperer.

I did more research for my novel. It is not as easy to find the information I need on the geography and etc. for the worldbuilding portion of my book. There seems to be plenty of information about the culture and lifestyles of those who lived in West Germany or West Berlin. There is not a lot of information about the lifestyles of those who lived on the East side of the wall. I will continue to plug away at this. I must make some progress before I can do this next lesson.

Until later, Keep reading and writing.

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